Thursday, June 28, 2007


Brown Intent on Establishing 'Newness'

Poor old Margaret Beckett has been an early victim of Brown's purge of the Blairite order, along with many more including Charlie Falconer and Patricia Hewitt. But Gordon's government building is not just about rewarding his people, it's also constructing an impression of a completely new regime. For this reason he mentioned 'change' eight times in his little speech outside Number 10 and concluded, as he turned to enter the hallowed portals, 'Let the change begin'.

His first act was to rescind the order in council passed by Blair in 1997 which gave Campbell and Jonathan Powell authority to give orders to civil servants. This had long rankled with hierarchy-obsessed top mandarins and was part of Blair's virtual dismantling of Whitehall procedure in favour of his 'can-do' informality. I wonder if Gordon will retain Tony's 'first names' style in Cabinet or go back to the more formal procedure of addressing colleagues by their office('Chancellor', 'Secretary for Education' etc)?

At the time of my writing we don't know of the cabinet or junior ministerial changes but it's clear Brown wants to establish a 'new' kind of inclusive administration. Firstly there were the approaches to the Lib Dems; rebuffed by Ming and Paddy but I wonder what that meeting with Shirley Williams was all about. Secondly we learn that Brown is setting up a panel of top business men to advise him, including private equity chief Damon Buffini, Sir Terry Leahy and Alan 'Your'e Fired' Sugar. Thirdly, after hearing Alistair Darling on Today this morning, I expect other people from outside the political establishment to be drawn into Gordon's big tent. Fourthly I expect him to distance himself rapidly from that point of haemorrhaging support: Iraq. David Milliband, tipped to be Foreign Secretary, is known to be a strong opponent of the decision to invade.

Why the big emphasis on 'newness'? Clearly, he wants to differentiate himself from the Blair era which held him in his ten year purgatory of waiting but most important of all, he wants to persuade people that this is a completely new government, completely unconnected with the faults and errors of the past. The same trick was accomplished by John Major after 1990 when the government did not change but seemed to do so. Gordon is desperate voters will receive the impression that this is not the Labour government with which they have become so disillusioned but something new and bright and full of hope. So it's all part of a 'spin' operation? Of course.

Your analysis is spot-on. He is going to struggle to get women into the Cabinet. The current bunch obviously lack wit or intelligence(a nation like Britain shouldn't be insulted by the likes of Harman, Blears, Jowell or the ridiculous Hewitt - even France deserves better).

I disagree about Milliband. I don't think he spoke in Cabinet against the liberation of Iraq(have you sourced this?). If he had concerns, he wisely didn't share them with anyone. He is widely known to have spoken out against Israel's actions of self-defence in Lebanon last year. A real shame that he thinks this, because he is otherwise useful. Such anti-Israel views would limit his influence in office, and indeed his future career plans - no doubt the Americans will set him straight. The removal of Beckett is a cause for all decent people to rejoice. Retirement suits her.
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